The advent of app stores empowered individual developers and small teams once again. We feel that we can make our own products again and don’t need huge budgets to do that. We know how to write good, manageable code. We may even know how to design a good product. And we believe that we will build it and users will come.
The road to app store success
When you are embarking on the app entrepreneur journey you should definitely dedicate a sizeable chunk of your time to activities other than design and coding.
While most developers understand this on a logical level, over the years I’ve seen a lot of frustration which I can attribute to the fact that most of the developers – even those working as contractors and freelancers – just aren’t wired this way.
Developer’s work cycle
At the high level the business process of every employed developer or those running their own consulting businesses looks something like this:
We get the task (either in a form of project or position in a company), we deliver what’s expected of us (completed project or a part of it) and we get paid. When we switch to the app entrepreneur world the overall process looks pretty much the same: our app idea is the task, completed app – a deliverable and the app store brings us money. But there’s one major difference, though.
As employee or contract developers we are used to doing all of our sales activities before we even get started:
We go to job interviews or prospective client meetings and we try to sell our skills. At that stage we’ve only made a minor investment into the “project” ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days of our time. Failed a job interview? Sad, but not a big deal. On to the next opportunity.
Everything changes when you are an entrepreneur. You have to decide if your idea is commercially viable and most of the times there’s no sure way to determine this. So you have to decide to invest a significant chunk of your time (and money) into a task with a lot of uncertainty.
This is just common sense and every developer understands this. Having said that, we are still internally wired to consider delivery of the completed product as our final destination. We pop the champagne the minute the app goes live in the store. And we get depressed when we don’t see the immediate monetary return as per the scheme above.
The reality is that app’s publication is just the beginning of our sales activities and you have to work on your sales and marketing for the complete lifetime of your app.
The difference is subtle and huge at the same time. I see depressed developers-turned-app-entrepreneurs over and over again. And it’s not the quality of their app that’s at fault. Sometimes it’s the fact that they’ve decided to implement commercially unsound idea. But more often than not, even with great product-market fit, the cause of the disappointment is imagining a finish line in the middle of the marathon.
“My app is done” doesn’t mean that you’ve finished coding it. Your app is only done when you stop supporting it and unpublish it from the store. Otherwise you are still working on it.
This post is part of the series and an upcoming ebook on the business side of Windows 10 apps. If you are a successful Windows app or game developer, or you’ve learned a valuable lesson from your app business misgivings, the whole community would appreciate your input! Please, get in touch and contribute a chapter or an aside. Thank you!